Death has no appeal

The debate on the death penalty in India has gained new momentum, and the European Union (EU) is following the discussions with great interest. Under the visionary and far-sighted leadership of thinkers and politicians, Europe has come a long way from being the continent where the guillotine was invented and where death sentences were common under the dictatorships of the first half of the 20th century, to become, today, the only region in the world where the death penalty is no longer applied.

The campaign for the abolition of the death penalty is a trademark international position of the EU. In a nutshell, the EU is opposed to capital punishment in all circumstances and considers that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights. We consider the death penalty to be a cruel and inhuman punishment and that we must encourage the growing global trend towards moratoria and ultimately complete abolition.

Many reasons underlie our position. For example, it is clear that the deterrence argument is fallacious. There is no basis to the belief that the death penalty provides deterrent to criminal behaviour. Scientific studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that executions deter people from committing crime any more than long prison sentences. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that the abolition of the death penalty will lead to an increase in crime. On the contrary, there are even some circumstances, and notably terrorist crimes, that might become more likely if associated with the perverse glamour of judicial martyrdom.

Furthermore, it must be highlighted that the application of the death penalty is in many cases arbitrary, depending on such issues as the quality of the available legal representation, the background of the defendant, local or national politics and the inclinations of the judge who happens to preside. Numerous studies from different countries where the death penalty is applied have shown that arbitrary circumstances rather than objectivity can be the determining factor in deciding whether a person lives or is killed. Indeed, no jurisdiction in the world is capable of insuring against such arbitrary factors.

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